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Devereux Family Papers

Devereux Family Papers

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Processing of this collection was funded in part by grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Collection Summary

Repository:The Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum 132 Essex Street Salem, MA 01970 Phone: 978-745-9500 Fax: 978-531-1516
Creator:Devereux family
Title:Devereux Family Papers
Quantity:2 linear feet (4 boxes)
Abstract:The bulk of the material documents the shipping activities of James Devereux (1766-1846) who, with the aid of his sons John (1796-1856) and James (1806-1831), developed a thriving shipping business to the Far East, Europe, and the West Indies.
Collection Number:MSS 100

Series List

SERIES I. Shipping Papers
SERIES II. Family Papers
A. James Devereux (1766-1846)
B. John Devereux (1796-1856)
C. Mary Crowninshield (1801-1802) and Elizabeth Ives Devereux (born 1812)
D. James Devereux Jr. (1806-1831)
E. Nicholas Devereux (1808-1848)
F. Miscellaneous Family Papers

Scope and Content Note

The bulk of the material documents the shipping activities of James Devereux (1766-1846) who, with the aid of his sons John (1796-1856) and James (1806-1831), developed a thriving shipping business to the Far East, Europe, and the West Indies. The collection has been divided into two series.

Series I. Shipping Papers contains ships’ papers and correspondence. Among the papers of ships mastered and owned by James, the papers of the Four Brothers and Osprey are representative of the business conducted with Sumatra, Padang, Batavia, Antwerp, Genoa, Leghorn, Cadiz, Gibraltar, Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Anchangel and the West Indies. The ship's papers also document the involvement of James' sons in their father's shipping business: John who mastered the Osprey intermittently between 1819 and 1828, and James (1806-1831) who served as supercargo on that same vessel. Of special note in these papers are the Portuguese claims of the Osprey, which was held in Rio de Janeiro in 1822.

The miscellaneous shipping material contains papers for cargoes in warehouses and cargo consigned on non-Devereux vessels. Also included here are accounts with a few of James' many partners, such as Richard Wheatland, Nathaniel and Zachariah F. Silsbee, James Cook, and Joseph Waters. Of interest in the shipping and merchant correspondence is an 1835 letter from William Dean Waters in Batavia describing Nicholas Devereux's oncoming mental illness.

Series II. Family Papers contains correspondence and accounts of James (1766-1846), his children, John, James, Nicholas, Mary, and Elizabeth, and other Devereux relatives. John's correspondence and bills contain letters to his brother Nicholas and bills for Nicholas' stay in the McLean Asylum for the Insane. Miscellaneous family papers include a shipping log and memorandum book (1799-1801) belonging to a relative, Nicholas Devereux.

Biographical Sketch

James Devereux (1766-1846) was born in Wexford, Ireland, the son of James and Eleanor (Murphy) Devereux. He came to America with his uncle, shipmaster John Murphy, in 1780 and was mastering vessels for Clifford Crowninshield and other notable Salem merchants by 1792. In 1799, James mastered the first American vessel, the Franklin, to sail to Japan. James gradually developed his own shipping business to the Far East, Russia, South America, Europe and the West Indies. He owned twenty or more vessels, usually in partnership with other merchants, including Moses and Penn Townsend, Robert Stone, Dudley Pickman, Nathaniel, Zaccheus, and Zachariah Silsbee, Joseph Ropes, Richard Wheatland, Joseph Peabody, Joshua Ward, Richard Crowninshield, William and Joseph Orne, and Joseph Waters.

James and his wife Sally (Crowninshield) (1768-1815), daughter of John and Mary (Ives) Crowninshield, had eight children who survived infancy. Their sons John (1796-1856) and James Devereux (1806-1831) also entered the shipping business. John served as master of his father's brig Osprey and James as the Osprey's supercargo. James Jr.'s shipping career was cut short by his death in 1831. After John closed the final financial transactions of his father's business in the 1830's he became an attorney in Philadelphia.

James (1766-1846) and Sally's son Nicholas (1808-1848) was an attorney for the Essex County Court of Common Pleas. Their daughter Abigail (1803-1888) married shipping merchant William Dean Waters (1798-1880).

Index Terms

This collection is indexed under the following headings in Philcat. Researchers desiring materials about related topics, persons, or places should search the catalog using these headings.

Cook, James
Dean, Thomas, b. 1787
Devereux, Elizabeth Ives, b. 1812
Devereux, James, 1766-1846
Devereux, James, 1806-1831
Devereux, John, 1796-1856
Devereux, Mary Crowninshield, 1801-1822
Devereux, Nicholas, 1808-1848
Waters, Joseph, 1758-1833
Wheatland, Richard
Acasta (Ship)
Camel (Bark)
Edwin (Brig)
Eliza (Ship)
Enterprise (Private Schooner)
Erin (Ship)
Four Brothers (Schooner)
Franklin (Ship)
General Stark (Brig)
Growler (Schooner)
Herald (Ship)
Louisa (Brig)
Mary Ann (Ship)
McLean Asylum for the Insane
Neptune (Brigantine)
Osprey (Brig)
Pompey (Brigantine)
Rising States (Schooner)
Romp (Brig)
St. John (Brig)
Union (Schooner)
Voador (Brig)
Account books
United States--History--Spoliation Claims


Restrictions on Access

This collection is open for research use.

Administrative Information


Requests for permission to publish material from the collection must be submitted in writing to the Manuscript Librarian in the Phillips Library at the Peabody Essex Museum.

Preferred Citation

Devereux Family Papers, MSS 100, Phillips Library, Peabody Essex Museum, Salem, Mass.


The Devereux Family Papers are a reorganization and integration of four boxes of manuscripts originally processed as a part of the Waters Family I Papers (MSS 92). The bulk of the collection was probably donated by William C. Waters in 1916. Other donations made by Mr. Waters include: Nicholas Devereux's lecture book given in 1964; Elizabeth Ives Devereux's autograph album presented in 1945; and a Devereux log and memorandum book given in 1917.

Processing Information

Collection processed by Sylvia B. Kennick, March 1983. Updated by: Catherine Robertson, May 2014.

Related Material

Devereux Family Papers, 1789-1863, MSS 100

Waters Family Papers, 1637-1931, MH 12, MSS 92

Ward Family Papers, 1718-1946, MSS 46

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